NASA Plans to Send a Rover to Possibly Habitable Moon Europa

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NASA along with SpaceX have discovered that Jupiter’s Moon, Europa, maybe habitable and plan to send a rover by 2024. The moon is covered in ice and is considered one of the biggest in the solar system. It is five times further from the sun than the earth, which is why the climate is so cold.

The reason the moon is suspected to be habitable is due to the large underground ocean underneath the ice. Scientists believe it was formed through the breakdown of minerals containing water or radioactive decay. They think this ocean is enough to sustain alien life. Lead researcher, Mohit Melwani Daswani, says “our simulations, coupled with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, showing chloride on Europa’s surface, suggest that the water most likely became chloride rich. In other words, its composition became more like oceans on Earth. We believe that this ocean could be quite habitable for life.”

Plan For Takeoff

NASA is teaming up with SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer founded by Elon Musk, to land a rover on Europa in order to perform tests and truly find out whether life is actually possible. The plan is to have a large SpaceX rocket, such as the Falcon Heavy, transport a NASA rover to the moon. The mission is titled the “Europa Clipper” mission and is currently planned to launch in 2024.

Scientists believe the icy shell around the moon is 10 to 15 miles thick atop while the ocean is 40 to 100 miles deep. Therefore, although Europa is only one-fourth the size of the earth, it may contain twice as much water. Although the planet is icy and incredibly cold, scientists believe life could exist there due to underwater vents in the seafloor. They expel heat into the water almost exactly the same way the oceans on Earth do. Additionally, comets that have struck Europa while being attracted by Jupiter’s gravity carry organic material, which are the building blocks of life.

On Europa, the chemical reactions generate ten times as much oxygen as hydrogen does. Which is very similar to that of Earth. The moon is 780 million miles away from the sun. The temperature never rises above -160 degrees celsius or -256 degrees Fahrenheit.

Launch Succesful

The Europa Clipper is set to bring nine instruments to the moon. These include Cameras, thermal detectors, magnetometers, and radars designed to scan underneath the ice. In addition, The rover will search for organic molecules across the moon, including those that are associated with life. Additionally, the Trump administration also set the goal to send the first woman astronaut to the moon by 2024. This is a goal that many scientists are skeptical of achieving due to congress not giving their full support.

All in all, it is an exciting time for space travel. NASA’s last space mission was the international space station that launched 1998, and since then there has been no significant landmark in space travel. For the first time in 22 years, there may be another rocket launch to witness; and for the first time in history, we truly may not be alone in the cosmos.

Written by: Joseph Nelson

Edited by: Jakiria M. Williams


CNET: SpaceX could send NASA to Jupiter’s potentially habitable moon Europa

SciTechDaily: NASA Scientists Believe Jupiter’s Moon Europa Could Sustain Life

TNW: The oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa may be habitable, according to NASA

Image Courtesy of Francisco Schmidt’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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